Children who have been removed from home can still return to their parents after one year

Victims of the unemployment benefit affair participate in March with the mothers. With the march, the parents want to draw attention to the unemployment benefit scandal, for which a solution has not yet been found.Picture ANP

The change of course for the Dutch Youth Institute (NJi), which together with the trade unions draws up the guidelines, is important for the approximately 420 children of parents who are affected by the unemployment benefit affair and who have been placed from their homes and still live separately. from their parents. A government support team has been available to them since last week. In total, about 46 thousand children live in foster families or institutions in the Netherlands, of which more than 20 thousand are through the intervention of the juvenile court.

Decide what is possible per. family

The new starting point is that it must be determined per. family, what is possible without any longer a generally applicable strict term. Even before the official new guideline is available, which is expected after the summer, it is already intended that the acceptable term should be used less strictly.

The concept of ‘acceptable terms’ was included in the Civil Code in 2015 to prevent children from being left in uncertainty about where they would grow up too long after a deprivation of liberty. As a national knowledge center, NJi has prepared two semesters based on scientific insight and practical experience: a maximum of six months for very young children up to 5 years and a maximum of one year for children aged 5 and older. Although the terms are ‘indicative’, it also read firmly: ‘If it is not possible to improve the conditions sufficiently within this period, then a permanent deprivation of liberty is necessary.’

The idea was that such a maximum maturity would encourage the social services to work as quickly as possible to get children back to their parents. But that was not always the case. The guideline is notorious among parents: often before they had the opportunity to improve their home situation, the judge ruled that their children could no longer go home on the grounds of exceeding the acceptable time limit.

Due to waiting lists, the old guideline works to the detriment of the parents

Strict adherence to this term is not desirable. With the current long waiting lists for youth care and lack of youth protectors, the guideline seems too much to the detriment of parents and children, says developmental psychologist Karlijn Stals from NJi. “Even though at the time there had been too little support for the family, the term could be used as an argument for not letting children return home. The directive must be an instrument, not a law. That is why we are revising that guideline. ‘

‘A term should never be the only argument for not returning a child,’ says NJi board member Rutger Hageraats. ‘The incentive remains to work on return as soon as possible and create clarity.’ NJi has already been in contact with the support team for foster parents about this. Youth care expert Peter Dijkshoorn previously argued for extending the acceptable period to give this team and youth protectors more elbow room in attempts to reunite parents and their children.

Stals wants to dampen parents’ expectations that children who have been removed from the home can now return home immediately. ‘The basic principle remains: What is the best place for a child. That decision is very complicated. Moving is very difficult if, for example, the child has been out of the house for five years.

Assistant professor Joost Huijer, who specializes in family law, thinks it is a ‘good idea to be more flexible with the acceptable term’. ‘We need to move away from thinking in terms, we need to see how the child is doing.’ But along with other experts, he also warns against expectations that are too high. “Even though it turns out that mistakes have been made and that parents are now able to raise their children. After so many years, can one still remove a child who has been attached to a nursing home? In that case, it may not be in the best interests of the child to return a placement outside the home. It’s tragic. ‘

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